A Bit of Nostalgia: Remember Burma-Shave?

In a simpler time, when four-lane highways were in their infancy and automobiles went slower, a popular advertising campaign captivated a nation of motorists traveling the roads from 1927 to 1963. Small red signs with white lettering appeared along the right side of the roads with sequential rhymed messages. The last of the five or six signs always said “Burma-Shave,” the advertiser’s name.  

Burma-Shave was the first brushless shaving cream for men. It came in a jar and eventually a tube; when smeared on a moistened face, it softened the beard for an easy shave. It released men from having to rely on a soap dish and lathered-up brush. The name actually came from another product marketed by the Burma Vita company of Minnesota, which advertised that some ingredients in its products came from Burma.

When first introduced, the rhymes focused on promoting the product with couplets like,

Shaving brushes

you’ll soon see ’em

on the shelf

in some museum.

The ad campaign rapidly gathered momentum and went nation-wide. In 1935 the company expanded topics to include road safety. Messages like,

Hardly a driver

is now alive

who passed on hills

at 75


garnered the shaving cream a place as second most popular shaving product. Sometimes  embedded sales pitches or puns were incorporated:

Train approaching

whistle squealing


avoid that run-down feeling



Keep well

to the right

of the oncoming car

get your close shaves

from the half pound jar

of Burma-Shave. 

During World War II the company supported the effort with messages like:

Tough-whiskered yanks

in heavy tanks

have jaws as smooth

as guys in banks


and the more pointed

Let’s make Hitler

and Hirohito

feel as bad

as Old Benito

Buy War Bonds


By the 1950s vehicle speeds had increased, and it became more difficult to keep motorists’ attention with small signs. The company was sold to Phillip-Morris, and the signs were discontinued. During its heyday over 600 messages were published. The last was:

Farewell, o verse

along the road

how sad to know

you’re out of mode.

Second Saturday Social

July’s Second Saturday Social is a special one. It’s not only the month when the Historical Society honors members and volunteers, but this year we’ll pay homage to Nancy White Southard, who was born in the Red Brick House, now officially known as the White Family Home. 

Planned for Saturday, July 8, at the Historical Park, the festivities will begin at 10 a.m. The morning will center on appreciation for the members and volunteers who have devoted hours to furthering the Century-long Story. The project is now nearly 50 percent accomplished. At noon family and friends of Southard will enjoy a potluck and share memories.

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